How to Raise Chickens for Eggs Ethically
Once you are comfortable managing your flock, you may want to learn how to breed chickens. There are many reasons to breed. You might want chickens for meat. You may need pullets to replace your aging layers. Or maybe you want more eggs to feed a growing family or to sell. Knowing how to breed chickens naturally is also important if you hope to have a self-sustaining flock.
How Do Chickens Breed? With a Rooster.
Before you learn how to breed chickens you need to know how to keep a rooster. If you thought chickens were sweet farm animals, a cockerel can change your mind in a hurry.
Tips for Managing a Rooster
A good rooster is the protector of his flock. He guards his hens closely, cheers them on when they lay eggs and resents any foreign intruders (that’s you). Here are few tips to staying on friendly terms with your rooster:
- Move Slowly – Avoid sudden motions that might startle the rooster.
- Wear the Same Clothes- Roosters are observant. Different shoes, a new hat or glasses are enough to convince him you’re a threat.
- Learn to Speak Chicken- Learn to read his body language. Poofed up neck feathers and beating wings are signs that he is agitated.
- Respect the Rooster- Remember, the rooster knows how to breed chickens. So treat him with respect and you’ll have few problems.
- Don’t Be Afraid- He’s just a chicken. The worst he can do is peck you or scratch your shins with his spurs. It hurts, but you’ll survive.
How do Chickens Breed?
Chickens breed quickly. Their is a brief courtship dance, where the rooster drops one wing and circles the hen. Then he’ll take hold of the hen’s neck with his beak and jump on her back. He “treads”, moving his feet rapidly on her back, before squatting to ejaculate into her cloaca. It is over in seconds. Healthy birds will manage breeding all on their own so don’t worry if you’re not sure how to breed chickens; chickens know how to breed chickens.
How to Breed Chickens Safely
Some farm animals must be supervised during mating to avoid injury. Others, like goats, must be separated from the opposite sex at a young age so they don’t impregnate an immature animal.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about how to breed chickens safely because they are almost always safe. The hen may loose a few feathers, but that’s usually it. You can leave pullets in with a rooster. They won’t breed until the pullet is ready to lay eggs.
Choosing Breeding Chickens
Now you know how to breed chickens. But how do you breed great chickens? First, only use healthy animals for breeding. When choosing a cockerel, look for a bird with bright eyes, a clean red comb and perky tail feathers. He should be alert and energetic.
Look for good confirmation. You don’t want to pass on a poor trait like bowed legs. Confirmation guidelines vary by breed. The Penn State Extension is a good resource on breed-specific confirmation.
Cross Breeding Chickens
Chicken cross breeds are often dual-purpose birds that produce eggs and meat. Cross breeding chickens can reduce the risk of inherited defects. However, if you are raising a rare heritage breed, don’t cross your birds. These breeds could easily be lost if they are not carefully maintained.
Watch these birds to see how chickens breed in real life.